Kyle considered the question, “Not just because you were sorry for her, I take it?”
“Nope. I hope it will help, but I can’t even count on that. I cast the spell for the same reason American revolutionaries once threw tea in the Boston harbor – to gain attention. We won’t win this fight on our own, but if we can rally people to our cause then it will practically win itself.”
“That’s an unusually constructive way of winning a war. You didn’t even ruin any tea.”
Alison shot him her hundred watt grin. “It is, isn’t it? At first, I’m embarrassed to admit, I didn’t realize we could fight this way. However, all the things your typical revolutionary organization does: bombings, combat, etc, it’s all about getting attention and starting to make a dent in what they are against. We can do that by doing basically good things.”
“It’s the perfect fission of illegality and wealth for the news media to pick it up and for it to stick in people’s minds and get them asking, ‘Why isn’t this always done?’”
Kyle thought that over. It made sense, but it seemed really odd. Could you actually start a revolution by helping people? It sounded like the stuff of smiley motivational posters and cheesy Internet forwards. Still, some of the logic was certainly right. It would attract attention and that was how they would start something bigger. If there was a problem with the idea it was that other people would have a hard time jumping in once the revolution was really rolling. Anyone with a bomb, or a weapon, or a match, or even hands and feet can get violent and thereby get involved in a war. It would be harder for the average citizen to walk among the unwashed masses healing the downtrodden with ancient magic. Still, maybe writing their congressmen would be enough. Kyle had no idea, and he was starting to think Alison was also winging it. That made sense; her school probably hadn’t offered any electives in overthrowing the government.
“So, since you know about this, can I get you to help me out?”
“With what,” Kyle asked not really committing to helping. He doubted Alison was going to ask him to start making monsters right after her ‘hang in there kitty’ speech, but he found himself on guard anyway.
“When we do a detox on someone we normally like to hit them with a small get-your-life-together starter kit as soon as possible. Right now that woman is feeling more than she has in a long time, and I mean that literally. She’s been sleeping on the streets half out of it either high or hung over as much of the time as possible. Odds are she didn’t notice her skin was itchy with old dirt, her cloths smelled bad, and her hair was all greasy. Now all the crap has been torn out of her system, the long term damage isn’t gone, but it’s like she’s been sober for a month or four. Her nerves and neurons are firing and she’s going to notice those things. Look.”
Kyle looked over at the woman. As he watched she reached up to scratch her neck as though something there was bugging her, then she swept some hear back off her head. Only she stopped the motion half way through as her fingers caught in her hair. She pulled them back and then gave them a funny look as though she wasn’t quite certain what had happened.
“The problem with helping out someone who’s had substance problems is they started clean and something made them fall into the abuse in the first place. Just getting them clean isn’t enough. If it was we could lock them in a room until they detoxed and we’d be done. Instead you’ve got to make them realize the drugs were a bad choice in the first place and resolve not to go back. With magical detox we have a unique opportunity, a sharp contrast between three states: stoned, clean but feeling all the effects of the street, and clean and well rested. The contrast helps drive home the ‘drugs hurt’ message.”
Kyle nodded following, “And that keeps them clean?”
Alison snorted, “About 25 percent of the time. So far we’ve lost the other 75%. Oddly enough, that’s a really great average. People end up where they are for a reason, and people are complex so the reasons are complex. You can’t just say, ‘You’re being dumb. You could sleep in a bed and not die early from liver failure if you quit using crank.’ That doesn’t get at all the reasons.”
“You’ve put a lot of thought into it. That is, you’ve put a lot of thought into it for someone who just wants to move their own cause forward.”
She shrugged and didn’t answer, but gave him a rueful smile. It rather echoed the ‘people are complex’ statement. Why does a revolutionary want to change the way magic is used? Is it the same reason another person wants to deal with homelessness and addition? Does the answer to either question matter if the non-scalar law will sink your island and the best way to keep people off drugs is to let a few die in the streets as an example of what not to do?
This was more crap James Bond never had to deal with. Why couldn’t Alison just announce her intention to blow up the moon? Or, maybe, rake it with something. Kyle had never actually watched the Bond moves. “You haven’t told me what you want me to do yet.”
“Oh, yeah. It’s kind of stupid. We’ve got bags prepared with a ticket for a laundromat, a clean pair of sweat clothes, a few meal tickets, contact information for a shelter that we work with that has a program for people trying to clean up. Just, basically, stuff that’ll let her live clean and comfortable for a bit, but we left that at home. I forgot to put it in the van. Could you run back to the house and get it?”